Lineup optimization is a bit of an overrated task for a statistician. There's no denying that what order the players perform in can have significant influence on the game, but making those decisions requires knowledge of statistics, phys...
Lineup optimization is a bit of an overrated task for a statistician. There's no denying that what order the players perform in can have significant influence on the game, but making those decisions requires knowledge of statistics, physical attributes, and quality of mind.
Joe Maddon started the year with an unconventional approach, using the first two slots of the batting order as a rotating door of players to find hot streaks and ignite the offense. The tricks paid off in May, when the Rays led the majors with a 125 wRC+, and Maddon has settled back into a more consistent approach.
Now the lineup receives a wild card, and it's a good problem to have: Wil Myers
Heading over to Fenway. Excited to put the uniform on and play today!
— Wil Myers (@wilmyers) June 18, 2013
Upon his call up to the big leagues, Wil Myers will have his turn batting in the line up every day, but Joe Maddon intends to start him low in the order to take the pressure off.
Today's first lineup to feature Wil Myers has him batting sixth, which is not an awful choice.
As a top-5 prospect in all of baseball, it's difficult enough performing against astronomically high expectations. It'd be even more difficult batting second; nevertheless, fear not. Myers will not stay batting 7-9 the entire season, and finding an ideal batting order is an art that Joe Maddon prides himself in.
Let's take a cursory look at what could be to come in adding Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays offense.
Every discussion about building a batting order should start with Tom Tango's study on the importance of each batter, which can be found in The Book. (more from Ian on The Book here)
According to Tango, the most important batters in the lineup are second and fourth*, based on numbers of plate appearances and the opportunity to succeed. Furthermore, it is fifth and lead off that hold even more importance than the third hitter in the line up.
The rest falls in order from there, but the guys batting sixth and ninth should probably be fast and have some ability to get on base in front of likely singles hitters.
Put these rankings together, and your batting order by talent looks like this:
4, 2, 5, 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 8
*I was not always a believer in "third research by R.J. Anderson recently persuaded me otherwise.
The Current Lineup
As of Sunday, June 16th, this was Tampa Bay's starting lineup:
1. Matt Joyce, RF
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
3. Kelly Johnson, LF
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. James Loney, 1B
6. Desmond Jennings, CF
7. Luke Scott, DH
8. Jose Molina, C
9. Yunel Escobar, SS
B. Sean Rodriguez, UT
B. Ryan Roberts, 2B/3B**
B. Sam Fuld, OF
B. Jose Lobaton, C
**Roberts was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Monday to make room for Myers
Of course, no two weeks are the same under Joe Maddon, but this lineup was as close to consistency as the Rays could get.
There are two key mainstays to Maddon's lineup: Zobrist and Longoria. The strategy agrees with The Book well, Zorilla and Longoria are the standouts in OBP over the long sample size, and project as the two best hitters on the team. The two biggest surprises have certainly been James Loney and Matt Joyce, who have each been putting together incredibly strong seasons. These four create the foundation of the line up.
Even still, Matt Joyce is somewhat of an outlier. In his 15 games from the lead off position, he's batting .311/.391/.607 with four home runs, six doubles, and seven walks.
Joyce is also thumping the highes